V spotted herself in the crowd on Univision's Ultima Hora coverage last night of the alleged illegal adoption ring in La Antigua.
She'd spent most of the day outside the Casa Quivira fraternising with the assembled media teams, including one from Algeria. She also chatted with a man who'd come to see if his five-month old daughter (stolen in Guatemala City recently) was amongst the chirizal found there last weekend.
The house's owner Clifford Phillips is reportedly "shocked" by the raid and claims that his organisation has been officially approved for adoptions since 1994. Yet it seems that V's earlier speculation that his use of non-Guatemalan builders was highly suspect may have been on the money, as it was being reported yesterday that the police have detected a highly unusual double wall in the structure. (Certainly not a feature that the local climate necessitates.)
Whatever the legalities of this operation, I find the whole adoption trade in Guatemala thoroughly distasteful. It's big business locally and rarely have I left the country on a flight that hasn't been packed with couples clutching export babies. Most had only spent a day or so in Guatemala and in a hotel set up by the agency. Casa Quivira and other organisations like it are , in the words of a friend "the human equivalent of a puppy mill."
A site I came across yesterday, Embrace the Children (which mentions a visit by Clifford and Sandra Phillips) misuses statistical information to give the impression that somehow poor Mayan families don't deserve their own children: "Thirty percent of Guatemala’s children die before the age of 5 because there is no resource for birth mothers to get affordable and reliable medical attention. The children do not die from Polio or Aids, they die from malnutrition, dehydration and poor water sources."
This kind of exploitation posing as charity has helped to create a mood in the countryside where visiting American tourists that stop to offer sweets to kids in the street run the risk of being lynched.